A day out at the beach provides some extra pickings for the family table, as well as an insight into our culinary heritage, find Shaquel al Balushi and Alvin Thomas.
It’s an average Sunday morning for everyone in and around Muscat and it’s time to head back to work after the weekend. But for those staying around Seeb Beach, today’s more than just a work day. It’s a day to scour the beach for delicious ma’awanneh shells.
Numerous families and friends have gathered on the beach armed with plastic bags and buckets, all with the aim of finding as many ma’awanneh shells as they can.
Today, it’s a clear case of finders keepers as children and adults alike scramble over the wet sand as the tide makes its retreat.
Most of those out at the beach today are working in groups to make their harvest more efficient. After all, this is an annual occurrence, and there’s no clear answer as to when this will happen again.
Jamaal al Amry is out with his friends and son and daughter. Together, they have collected nearly a hundred shells and are on their way to store their catch safely in their SUV.
“As people who live by the beach, we always keep our eye out for this phenomenon. A few years back, the ma’awanneh shells stopped washing onto the shore, and we thought that it had ended. But then it started happening again in 2013,” says Jamaal.
“Ever since that we have been lucky.”
The ma’awanneh shells usually wash onto the shores of Oman during the winter months, and mostly in the aftermath of strong winds. But the locals say that it is a combination of the rain, cool conditions and wind that usually bring these shells to the shores.
According to Rashid, the shells are placed into boiling water before being seasoned with salt, lemon and spices or simply garnished in gravy and then served with rice.
The mollusc within the shells are said to taste like squid.
Rashid, a young Omani, and his friends say that they hit the beach as soon as they heard about the phenomenon.
“We have been here since 9am. One of my friends has also cancelled work for today,” laughs Rashid.
“Our bags are all full, and we have another three bags in my Jeep. This should be enough to last us a whole week. My family will be happy. People don’t usually sell the ma’awanneh shells in the market but we do share them with our neighbours. It’s something we have learnt from our past generations.”